Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Sonja Corbitt

2/7/2014 (5 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In their own words, many Christians in the area say it is not the movement of Muslims into the area or Islamic violence, but brutal economic conditions that proceed from the political climate between Israel and Palestine that are forcing Christians to leave and inciting violence

Religious extremism contributes to the persecution and elimination of Coptic Christians from the Middle East. But we must not single out Islamic extremists as the sole threat to Christian presence in the area. It is not the movement of Muslims into the area or Islamic violence, but brutal economic conditions that proceed from the political climate between Israel and Palestine that are forcing Christians to leave and inciting violence. 

Highlights

By Sonja Corbitt

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/7/2014 (5 months ago)

Published in Middle East

Keywords: Coptic Christians, religious persecution, separation wall, apartheid wall, Muslim extremism, Israeli occupation, Zionism, Christian extinction, Holy Land


NASHVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) -"Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:24).

Although it has fallen largely on deaf ears, the plight of Christians in the Middle East has made some news, especially in Christian circles. I have written on the circumstances there, myself, and about how Muslim extremism is the main cause of escalating emigration, the destruction of Coptic churches, and the approaching extinction of Christians in the region. 

Recently, however, my view of the problem was carefully challenged by a Catholic brother whose vocation is intimately involved with the difficulties in the Middle East. I began to research the topic much more thoroughly, even speaking to Christians in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. With a heavy heart I must confess I was wrong about a great many matters, and am guilty of ignorantly contributing to the real problem by spreading what amounts to propaganda.

When asked directly about the causes for the emigration and elimination of Christians from the area, Israeli and Palestinian Christians overwhelmingly indicate that the primary causes are political and economic conditions, not religious extremism. 87.3% of the respondents in a 2006 study of 1500 Christian families in Palestine and Israel said the same. Only 8% attributed emigration to religious extremism (pg. 34, Sabeel survey with Bethlehem University). The truth, it seems, is that religious extremism contributes, but not in the way I previously thought. More on that in a moment.

In their own words, many Christians in the area say it is not the movement of Muslims into the area or Islamic violence, but brutal economic conditions that proceed from the political climate between Israel and Palestine that are forcing Christians to leave and inciting violence. 

Most of the land taken by Israeli settlement expansion belonged to Palestinian Christians, including the seizure of lands belonging to the Convent of Cremisan. The Separation Wall, built under the guise of security, physically split Christian families and closed Christian businesses. 

Against an exhortation for Israel to reconsider by the USCCB and brother bishops all over the world, the Wall devoured land privately owned by indigenous Christian people, split a Salesian religious community offering services and ministering there in two, and illegally confiscated and destroyed Christian vineyards and olive groves held and cultivated by Christians for generations. 

In addition to the Wall, the Israeli occupation and its security checkpoint and permit system greatly restricts Christian movement, especially to Jerusalem and other Christian holy sites. My Catholic brother shared that a group of Christians he was with at Christmas was uncomfortable with their worship at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem because the tension and scrutiny was so thick.  

Israel's separation Wall, illegal confiscation of Palestinian land, policies that violate freedom, and its brutal crackdowns on nonviolent protests have decimated the economic stability of the entire area and pushed not only Christians to emigrate, but also many other Palestinians. 

Candidly, to the Palestinian Christians there the Wall is a big "push factor" for forcing Palestinians out of Palestine, many of whom are Christian. But Muslims leave as well. According to one of the Palestinian Christians I spoke with, religious violence from Jewish settlers has also made the lives of Palestinian Muslims miserable and intolerable.

Such Israeli activity prompted the heads of the Catholic churches in the Holy Land last year to label it unjust and meet with Pope Francis about the extent of Israeli oppression and the suffering of Christians there. At the time the Wall was still being considered, they also called for the realignment of its plan in accordance with international law, pointing out to the Israeli decision-makers that "illegal seizure of lands in no way serves the cause of peace, nor does it support the moderate position that opts for non-violence." 

The churches spoke prophetically. Blatant, chronic injustice and instability causes anxiety, discouragement, despair, and retaliation. Israel and her allies in the world blame Islam, and militant Muslim terrorists everywhere use the accusation to retaliate. Palestinian Christians beg us not to "exploit [their] sufferings to fuel some islamophobic tendencies and negative images about Islam. Indeed, this is what the Israeli occupation persistently tries to do. It demonizes Islam in a way that deflects blame from the repression levied by the state itself."  

Religious extremism contributes, but we must not single out Islamic extremists as the sole threat to Christian presence in the area. According to Palestinian Christians, there are also Jewish extremists represented by what they call "religious and racist" settlers on the West Bank. They maintain that they are encouraged directly by the Israeli government and by, in their words, "Christian extremists represented by Western Christians that support Israel blindly and unconditionally." 

With candor they maintain that these last two groups are a greater threat to Christians in the Middle East than the Muslim extremists, because they have more money, military power, and clout to uproot all Palestinian presence, both Christian and Muslim, from their homeland.

To be fair, it is also widely known in the region that without Israeli control, the area would undoubtedly degenerate into factious religious wars within a decade or so. The issues are too intricately complicated to support easy answers. But no real peace can or will ever come from the injustice perpetrated on the area by some aspects of current Israeli methodology.

The most heartbreaking bit I learned about the situation and suffering of our Catholic Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East was this statement from a Palestinian Christian leader: "We are no longer expecting support from Church leaders around the world. Our Hope, Faith and Love come from elsewhere. Palestinian Christians need advocates for the truth. It is the truth, and only the truth, that will lead to peace and justice in our home."

Supporting links: http://www.sabeel.org/news.php?eventid=213

http://www.fosna.org/content/kairos-palestine-response-arch-rowan-williams

----- 

Sonja Corbitt is a Scriptural evangelist, Bible study author, and a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Although fully booked for the next six months, visit pursuingthesummit.com to book Sonja for your next great event, or to order her Bible study Soul of the World, on the Scriptural "whys" of Catholic faith and practice, available as a 10-week DVD-driven Bible study or a 12-week small group fellowship Bible study. .  

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More Middle East

ISLAMIC STATE PREPARES CHRISTIAN HOLOCAUST Watch

Image of Iraqi Christians are being forced to flee Mosul or be put to death. It's the start of a campaign of genocide. Leave with nothing or die.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Imagine you've been given a choice, and just days to make it. You must either change your religion, agree to pay thousands of dollars each year in punishing taxes, or you must leave your home with just the clothes on your back. No suitcases, no possessions. If you ... continue reading


Christian Monks expelled from Iraqi monastery as ISIS Islamists fighters ruthlessly sieze it Watch

Image of An image made available by the jihadist Twitter account Al-Baraka news on June 11, 2014 allegedly shows militants of the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waving the Islamic Jihad flag and holding up their weapons as a vehicle drives on a newly cut road through the Syrian-Iraqi border between the Iraqi Nineveh province and the Syrian town of Al-Hasakah.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Saint Behnam, a fourth-century monastery run by the Syriac Catholic church near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh in Iraq has been overrun by jihadists. Members of the Islamic State expelled the monks from the monastery this past weekend, sources ... continue reading


THINGS TO COME? ISIS stones Syrian woman to death over 'adultery charges' Watch

Image of Many fear that the recent stoning incident proves that ISIS will impose a brutal regime over the areas they seize.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Al-Qaeda-breakaway group, the Islamic State, has now stoned a woman to death for adultery in Syria. It was the first such execution carried out in the region, and depicts the stranglehold this radical group now has over the region of northern Syria. LOS ... continue reading


CRIES FOR HELP: Head of Iraq's Catholic Church issues appeal 'to all who have a living conscience' Watch

Image of ISIS had reportedly marked the doors of Christians in red last month. Patriarch Sako's letter confirms that rumor.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In an appeal "to all who have a living conscience in Iraq and all the world," Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, head of Iraq's Catholic Church, has issued a plea for international support. He says that the situation for Iraq's Christians has been steadily ... continue reading


Israel authorizes another call up of 18,000 reserve troops as Gaza offensives continues Watch

Image of Israeli troops have pushed into the Gaza strip in an attempt to target and weaken Hamas militants.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Israeli military has pushed deeper into the Gaza strip, destroying rocket launching sites and tunnels and clashing with Palestinian fighters. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Israel began this military operation on July 17, in an attempt to weaken Hamas ... continue reading


UNBELIEVABLE: 20 rockets found at United Nations agency in Gaza Watch

Image of This latest incident would confirm Israel's oft-repeated claim that Hamas and other Gazan terror groups use civilian infrastructure to hide weapons.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Some 20 rockets were found in a school in Gaza operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The weapons were found in "the course of the regular inspection of its premises," the United Nations Relief and Works Agency said in a statement. The agency ... continue reading


Ground invasion more likely, in spite of ceasefire in Gaza Watch

Image of Relatives of a 25-year-old Palestinian man who was killed in an Israeli airstrike, mourn over his body during his funeral on July 16 in Gaza City.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Israel agreed to cease fire on Gaza for five hours to allow humanitarian aid into the Palestinian territory. Israel at the same time warned that the likelihood of a ground invasion was growing, just as long as militants in Gaza kept up rocket attacks. LOS ... continue reading


What is the mysterious object found in the Sea of Galilee? Watch

Image of A strange object has been found in the Sea of Galilee, twice the size of the ancient Stonehenge monument in England.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A mysterious structure, with a diameter greater than the length of a 747 jet has been discovered under 30 feet of water, underneath the Sea of Galilee in Israel. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The circular structure was first discovered in 2003 when they used ... continue reading


Guest Commentary: Headline: Israel Hits Gaza (Gaza hits Israel? Shhh!) Watch

Image of Ken Blackwell, a visiting professor at the Liberty University School of Law and serves on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Bob Morrison is a senior Fellow at Family Research Council, in Washington, D.C.

By Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison

When Hamas rockets rain down on Israeli cities and towns-and homes, schools, and hospitals, it is not news. It happens ever day, so it becomes like a weather report. Thousands of Hamas rockets have been fired at Israeli homes. Thousands. This coverage brings to ... continue reading


KETTLE CALLING POT BLACK? Taliban warns ISIS to 'avoid extremism' Watch

Image of The Afghan Taliban has urged the Sunni faction, which has been waging a bloody insurgency against Shi'ite Muslim groups in Iraq, to avoid

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It's an extraordinary gesture, suggesting that ISIS is overstepping the line a bit in its assault on Iraq. No less than the Taliban militants in Afghanistan are warning ISIS insurgents fighting in Iraq to "avoid extremism" in a plea for unity among jihadists. ... continue reading


All Middle East News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Song of Songs 3:1-4
1 On my bed at night I sought the man who is my ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
2 Thus I have gazed on you in the sanctuary, seeing ... Read More

Gospel, John 20:1-2, 11-18
1 It was very early on the first day of the week and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Mary Magdelene
July 22: She is called "the Penitent". St. Mary was given the ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter